We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Which Animals Use Tools?

The octopus is the only invertebrate that is known to use tools. Scientists discovered in 2009 that octopuses stack and carry coconut shell halves to make a protective shelter — portable body armor, if you will. Before this discovery, it was assumed that only humans and other vertebrates, like primates, birds, and elephants, used tools.

More on animals using tools:

  • Egyptian vultures are known to use rocks as hammers to smash open ostrich eggs. This is considered different from other birds dropping eggs to break them, since those birds do not actually manipulate the tool with their body.

  • Orangutans are able to learn how to pick locks using only a paper clip.

  • Sea otters are often seen carrying around rocks, which they use to pound open stubborn shellfish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines tool use in animals?

Tool use in animals is defined as the act of an organism wielding an object with the intention of achieving a goal, such as acquiring food, grooming, defense, or construction. This behavior demonstrates problem-solving skills and an understanding of cause and effect within the animal's environment.

Which animals are known for their tool use?

Chimpanzees are renowned for their tool use, often crafting sticks to extract termites from mounds. Crows exhibit remarkable intelligence, fashioning hooks from twigs to retrieve insects. Dolphins use marine sponges to protect their snouts while foraging, and elephants have been observed using branches as fly swatters. Octopuses collect coconut shells for shelter, showcasing their ingenuity.

How does tool use benefit animals in the wild?

Tool use provides animals with advantages such as increased efficiency in food acquisition, enhanced protection from predators, and the ability to perform tasks that would otherwise be impossible. For example, sea otters use rocks to crack open shellfish, which allows them to access a vital food source that would be unattainable without this behavior.

Are there any birds that use tools?

Yes, several bird species use tools. The New Caledonian crow is particularly adept, creating hooks from twigs to extract insects from tree bark. Egyptian vultures use rocks to break open ostrich eggs, and some parrot species have been observed using sticks to retrieve seeds. These behaviors highlight the cognitive complexity found in avian species.

Can tool use in animals be learned or is it instinctual?

Tool use in animals can be both learned and instinctual. In many cases, young animals observe and mimic the tool-using behaviors of their parents or peers, suggesting a learned component. However, some aspects of tool use may be innate, as seen in species where isolated individuals develop similar tool-using techniques without observation.

Has tool use in animals evolved over time?

Tool use has indeed evolved over time in various animal species. As environments change and challenges arise, animals adapt their behaviors to survive. This can lead to the development of new tool-using behaviors. For instance, primates have been observed modifying their tools to improve efficiency, indicating an ongoing evolution of tool use.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.